Archive for Robert Schenkkan

Selma: Revisionist History, Art, and Racism

Selma Bridge

Appearances can be deceiving – so can revisionist history and films “based on” true stories. This photograph is beautiful, but the beautiful bridge in the photograph was the site of one of the ugliest and most pivotal racial confrontations in American history. This is the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Route 80 where it crosses the Alabama River in Selma.

It is also the primary landscape for Selma, the new film by Ava DuVerney. In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act banning discrimination in public accommodations and voter registration, but in order to ensure passage it was weak on enforcement and implementation. Meanwhile, the civil rights movement was building a coalition of organizations to bring pressure on Congress to pass a voting rights bill with teeth to enforce those rights. Lyndon Johnson agreed with the movement’s leadership on the need for such a bill, but was concerned that moving that legislation forward would galvanize the Southern Bloc in the Senate and endanger his larger War on Poverty agenda. This is the historical setting for DuVerney’s film as well as two plays by Seattle playwright, Robert Schenkkan, All The Way and The Great Society. read more